Tag Archives: food storage

Mountain Man MRE

by Woodsbum

For those of you who read my site regularly, this will come as no surprise. I not only like food, but I love doing research. Today I had someone pass along a post someone did about making their own MRE type meals. They called them Mountain Man MRE. What I like about his approach is the way that he takes the time to explain each step in the process of making a full meal. Truly, this is a great post and even if you don’t like the food he prepared you can made necessary modifications as needed.


Humans have been preserving their harvest well before modern conveniences like pressure canners and deep freezers were invented. Preserving the harvest was the art of delaying nature’s natural effect on food – spoilage.


Being resourceful… and just plain hungry, our ancestors figured out ways to make food safe to eat long after living food was dead. Fermenting, smoking, drying, grinding, pounding, salting, and/or curing were preservation methods Native Americans, frontiersmen, long hunters, mountain men, and pioneers used.

None of the above, are you?

Maybe you hike, camp, or hunt. What I’m about to share will even be useful to hungry desk jockeys looking for a  protein-rich, healthy snack you won’t find in the processed-food vending machine at the office.

The vast majority of us are not mountain men/women or Amazon explorers (not the online store). We’re simply on a modern-day journey of self-reliance. You have to eat now and later. Learning to preserve foods with traditional methods is a skill you’ll be glad to own when the power grid fails.

In the meantime, let’s make a Mountain Man MRE (Meals Ready To Eat). The MRE will consist of four items; pemmican, jerky, parched corn, and dried blueberries. Here is another article on our site for pemmican with dried fruit mixed in. Parched corn is being added to the MRE with a brief tutorial. Today’s post will focus on making jerky in traditional fashion – over an open fire.

Modern and old ways will meld together. For instance, I used our electric Excalibur dehydrator for drying corn to parch and made jerky over a fire pit. This is my modern version of traditional trail foods eaten by Native Americans, fur traders, and mountain men.

Our Mountain Man MRE’s need to meet the following criteria:

  • Convenience – similar to pre-packaged, processed fast food – only ours is whole food and healthy
  • Storable – long-lasting without modern refrigeration
  • Transportable – dense, compact, and light-weight (less than 1/2 pound)
  • Tasty – an acquired taste by some but I love this primal stuff

Onto the first item of your MRE…

How to Make Jerky

If this is your first attempt at making jerky, you may want to read how to safely dry meat in my Definitive Guide to Making Jerky.

Being a Mountain Man MRE, this was a fine opportunity to dry meat over an open fire. I’ve cooked many meals over campfires but never made jerky this way.

What new stuff did you do today?

Every new preserving technique we own, no matter how small, is one step closer to food independence.

Step 1

Start a fire with hard wood to create a coal bed. A fire pit is nice if you have one. A charcoal grill may work for you.

Step 2

Design a way to hang the meat. I used poplar and sweet gum saplings lashed to my outdoor kitchen tripod.

How to Make Modern Mountain Man MRE's

Step 3

With a bed of coals underneath the rack, place the meat over the heat. The rack was about two feet over the fire.


Jerky hanging

Then the rain came down. I improvised and wrapped a tarp around the tripod which did two things; protected the fire, and created a smoke chamber accidentally.


Smoke house teepee

Step 4

Wait. The meat took about 4 hours to dry on the fire. I keep the coals going from time to time by adding wood at the back of the fire pit. The key here is to keep a constant heat (shoot for 225-250º F) inside the smoke house. Low and slow. You not cooking the meat.

Step 5

Check for doneness. If the jerky strips bends and no fibers are exposed at the bend, it’s not ready to be used for pemmican. You want a very dry meat that can be ground into powder.


Now you’re ready for the next item on our MRE package…

How to Make Traditional Pemmican

Down and dirty (traditional) pemmican consist of dried meat and rendered fat. I’ve seen a few fat-free pemmican recipes on the internet but that idea is just plain ludicrous and feeds the big fat lie. Stick with healthy, grass-fed fat for a satiating trail food. Ever heard of rabbit starvation? If you hate the thought of eating fat, substitute honey as a binding agent instead of tallow. Peanut butter pemmican is another option.

For today’s recipe, we’re using rendered tallow and jerky made over an open fire – mountain man style!

Disclaimer: This was my first attempt at jerking meat over a fire. Not an easy task in the rain – but doable. After the jerky was ready over the fire pit (approximately 4 hours), for added safety, I tossed it into our Excalibur for an extra hour. Also, modern kitchen appliances were used to grind and prep the jerky. The old school method is to place the dried meat on a stone and pound it to a powder. Gotta gather me some stones next time!

 Step 1

You’ll need equal parts of tallow and ground jerky. Here’s how I render tallow. You may add dried fruit to the mix if you like. I prefer the taste without the fruit.


Jerky dried over an open fire

For time’s sake, I used our Vitamix blender to turn jerky strips into a fine powder. Dump the powder in a mixing bowl while your tallow is warming on the stove.


Jerky powder!


Pre-made tallow melting

When heating the tallow, don’t allow it to get so hot that it smokes/burns. Low to medium heat here.

Step 2

Pour a small amount of tallow into the powdered jerky and stir. Don’t pour all the tallow in at once. It’s easier to add more tallow than to grind more jerky.


It took two pours of tallow for the correct consistency

Step 3

You’ll know when you’ve got enough tallow mixed in with the jerky when it compresses without crumbling.


Needs more tallow

Add too much tallow and the pemmican’s jerky flavor will be overwhelmed by tallow. Mix while your tallow is warm to better saturate the meat powder.

Step 4

When the right consistency is achieved, add mixture to a loaf pan. Press it down evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and, with one motion, drop the upside down loaf pan onto the paper. Lift the pan and you should have perfect pemmican. Another option is to form pemmican patties or balls. I’ve thought about sprinkling powered sugar on top and slipping these on the snack table at faculty meetings. 😉 I’ll video the response and get back with you.


Pemmican loaf!

Wrap the wax paper around the loaf and place it in the refrigerator until the tallow hardens. Slice into individual serving sizes and wrap in wax paper. Place in a container (ziplock bag or paper bag) for your next adventure. Wax paper and ziplock baggies have redundant uses… wax paper = fire starter; ziplock bags = container.

Or – go fur trader style and stash your fresh pemmican in a “parfleche” – an untanned animal skin bag. For further reading on the benefits of this amazing trail food, check out my article on Bread of the Wilderness.

Pemmican may be eaten as stand alone snack/meal or added to beef up wild onion soup for a hot trail meal.

Add the third item to your MRE…

How to Make Parched Corn

Dried corn that has been roasted is called parched corn. Removing/reducing he moisture content makes the corn last a long time. Parched corn is easier on the teeth than plain dried corn. You’ve bitten a popcorn kernel before, right?

Ideally, you’d walk out to your corn crib and grab a few ears. If you’re like me, you may not have access to dried corn on the cob. Dirt Road Girl and I took a road trip looking for dried corn. We stopped at a local organic farm we buy from, but their corn crop was gone and stalks plowed under.

We ended up buying two green ears for this experiment. I shucked them and tossed them into our dehydrator as a test – along with a bag of frozen organic grocery store corn. The bag corn was cut from the cob. Traditionally, you’d want the whole kernel. We adapted and used the cut corn. Dehydrating corn on the cob was a big waste of time.

Step 1

Heat a pan/skillet over medium heat. You can parch corn in a dry pan or with oil added. I tried both and found the dry pan batch tasted the best. You’d think bacon fat would make anything taste better. Not with the corn.


Parching with bacon grease

Add salt or other spices (optional) to the pan and cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer of dried corn. Shake the pan to keep the corn from scorching. A spatula is also helpful for stirring. Keep the pan and corn moving for a few minutes until it turns golden brown. Dump that batch and add another.

Step 2

Allow it to cool and bag and tag your snack. Pretty simple.


The completed Modern Mountain Man MRE!

Pictured above is the full-meal deal: Two bars of pemmican, one bag of parched corn, one bag (about 8 pc.) of water buffalo jerky, and a bag of dehydrated blueberries. The entire Mountain Man MRE weighed less than 1/2 pound (0.418 # to be exact).

Where’s the bread? Since I don’t eat bread, I didn’t include traditional hardtack in the MRE. Survival News Online has a great how-to for your reference if you’d like to make your own.

Hopefully, this light-weight, nutrient dense MRE will keep you moving on your next outing. Toss it in your coat pocket or haversack and you’re set for mobile fast food on the trail!

To see how a few of my Prepared Blogger friends preserve foods, check out our “How We Preserve Foods” round robin below with over 20 articles to help you achieve food independence!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,



Now I am not sure how many people will actually go out and make these full meals for themselves. To be totally honest, there is little doubt in my mind that I will. There is a huge chance that I will take the time to do the fruits and pemmican to supplement my already massive jerky batches that I do. The parched corn just doesn’t seem like something I would like considering how bad my stomach reacts to greases. If I could find a way to parch it without actually frying it, I might give it a try. That would mean that I was grilling it, however, and the individual kernels will almost definitely fall through the grates during the attempt….

Have fun and stay safe everyone!!!

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Feed Family Of 4 For 1 Year at $300 Cost

by Woodsbum

My aunt forwarded this link to me about putting enough food back for an entire family. I thought that some might like to see this recipe and article.

Before I start, as I always do, I put out there that I don’t think of myself as a “prepper.” In my life I have seen enough hard times to know that everyone should put things back to cover themselves and their family in case of hard times. Times such as a job loss, downturn in the economy that makes meeting bills almost impossible, weather issues where resupply of food isn’t timely, etc. There are just too many instances where having food and supplies put back is necessary. I guess if you are waiting for the end of times, this article would be good for you too.

I would also like to point out that I AM NOT A NUTRITIONIST AND DID NOT WRITE THIS ARTICLE. If you have any comments against the veracity of this article then follow the link that it come from and argue it out with them. It is important to mention that even if you only do this for supplemental purposes, you can use the dried beans for a multitude of other purposes. Dried beans can be ground into flour and uses as such or even ground up with water to become a butter or oil substitute.


This plan is THE fastest, cheapest and easiest way to start a food storage program.  You are done in a weekend. AND there are no hassles with rotating.  Pack it and forget.  It’s space efficient – everything is consolidated into a few 5-gallon buckets.  You’ll sleep content in knowing that you have a one-year food supply on hand for your family should you ever need.


With the exception of dairy and Vitamin B12, this bean soup recipe will fulfill all your basic nutritional needs.  It won’t fill all of your wants, but using this as your starting point, you can add the stuff that you want. 


All of the food and storing supplies listed below plus 2 55-gallon recycled barrels to be used for rain catchment cost me $296, including taxes.  I purchased rice, bouillon and salt from SAM’s Club.  You can buy small bags of barley at the grocery, but if you don’t mind waiting a few days, special ordering a bulk bag from Whole Foods was cheaper.  All of the beans I purchased from Kroger’s in 1-lb bags.  Buckets, lids, Mylar bags and rain barrels were from the Lexington Container Company.  Their prices are so good, with such a great selection that it’s worth a drive even if you are not in the local area.   I went on a second-Saturday of the month because that’s when they host free food storage courses taught by Suzanne, an energetic, delight of prepping wisdom.  http://www.lexingtoncontainercompany.com/


What you need:

8 5-gallon buckets

8 large Mylar bags

8 2,000 cc oxygen absorbers

8 gamma lids

A handful of bay leaves 

90 lbs. of white rice

22 lbs. of kidney beans

22 lbs. of barley

22 lbs. of yellow lentils

5.5 lbs. of split green peas

5.5 lbs. of garbanzo beans

1 lb. of salt

A big box of beef and chicken bouillon. 

A measuring cup



What you’ll do

Install the gamma lids on the bucket and insert Mylar bags.  Place 2 or 3 bay leaves in the bottom and fill the buckets, adding more bay leaves after each 1/3 to full.  Place an oxygen absorber in the top.  Label buckets with the contents and date. 



  • 3 buckets with rice (shake it down good.  Get it all in there!)
  • 1 bucket each of kidney beans, barley, and yellow lentils
  • In 1 bucket store the split green peas, garbanzo beans, salt, measuring cup and bouillon.  (I removed the bouillon from the box and vacuum sealed it as bouillon contains a small amount of oil.)
  • Yep, that’s a total of 7 buckets, so far. 


I place a broom handle across the bucket and wrap the ends of the Mylar bag over the broom handle to give me some support.  Then slowly and smoothly run a hot iron over the Mylar bag to seal all except the last 2 inches.  Then I press out as much air as possible before sealing the remaining 2 inches.  Make sure your Mylar is completely sealed from end to end.  Now, stuff the bag into the bucket and rotate the gamma lid into place.    This will protect your food for about 25 years.   You’ll have excess Mylar bag at the top.  Don’t cut it off, that way if you have to cut it open to get into it, you have enough bag remaining to reseal.


Where you’ll put it

It’s pretty easy to find a place for 7 to 8 5-gallon buckets even in the smallest of apartments.  Discard the box springs and lay the kid’s mattress on top of the buckets, line the back of a large closet with the buckets.  I made a couch-table by stacking buckets two high between the couch and the wall.  The buckets are about 6” taller than the back of the couch.  Add a shelf and drape and it looks fine; a convenient place for a lamp and books.  Get creative.


Making your bean soup

Measure out
·        8 oz of rice
·        2 oz of red kidney beans
·        2 oz of pearl barley
·        2 oz of lintels
·        1 oz of split green peas
·        1 oz of chick peas/garbanzo’s


Add 6-7 quarts of water.  Add bouillon or salt to taste.  Then add any other meats, vegetables, potatoes or seasonings you have on hand. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for two hours.  You should have enough to feed 4 people for two days.  This is thick and hearty.  You will be warm on the inside and full with one large bowl.  Kids usually eat half a bowl.  


When the emergency is over

This system allows you to open the Mylar bags, retrieve as much of the ingredients as is needed and then reseal everything after the emergency has passed.  Just be sure to replace the ingredients used so that you always have a one-year supply.


The 8th bucket – other stuff I would want

This list isn’t included in the $300.  This falls into the “what I want” category.  As money and resources became available, I’d just go crazy adding all of my indulgences, starting with coffee!  You can add what you want, but I’d fill it with:

  • Dry onion.  Let’s face it, what’s bean soup without onion! Sprinkle on the onions just before serving.
  • “Just add water” cornbread mix packets.  I just can’t eat bean soup without cornbread.
  • Beef jerky and Vienna sausages.  Add protein and zest to the bean soup
  • Instant oatmeal.  Do you really want bean soup for breakfast?  Freeze the oatmeal for 3 days before packing to kill any bugs.
  • 10 lbs of jellybeans.  Now, don’t laugh – it’s a bean.  Jellybeans don’t melt like chocolate might.  The high sugar content is quick energy, and a morale booster – with just enough of a high to help you over the really bad days. Easter is about here – stock up!



Before you fill the 8th bucket

Buy small bags of the ingredients and fix a big pot of bean soup for dinner.  Eat the leftovers the second night, and 3rd night, until it’s all gone.  Find out now – rather than later – what your family might like to add to it.  Anything tastes great the first meal, but quickly becomes boring after the 3rd or 4th repeat.  Don’t wait until the emergency happens to discover what you SHOULD have stored in your 8th bucket. … Maybe some Beano!


Again, I am not saying that I believe there will be some “End of the World as We Know It” type event. I am saying that everyone has a responsibility to take care of themselves and theirs in case of a disaster so planning ahead is a very responsible thing to do.

I will be putting this pile of chow together in the next few months to enhance my current food supplies. One doesn’t know what may or may not happen so having the extra food on hand if uninvited guests show up, things go bad for a long time, or you just want to outfit your camper with a food cache this recipe is a good way to do that inexpensively.

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Food Dehydration – NewB Guide

by Woodsbum

To make life easier in my family, I finally decided to get a food dehydrator. “How would this make your life easier?” many will ask. It is quite simple: jerky……..

My family LOVES jerky and “snack” type foods. Not necessarily junk food, but snack type items. We love veggies that are cut up and ready to eat. Fruits that are cut up and easy to pop in your mouth. Popcorn is also a favorite. The absolute, top shelf snacking chow at our house happens to be beef jerky.

For those that are not familiar with the “jerky” world, it can become quite an expensive habit to have. A small package of Jack Links (our household favorite brand prior to the homemade stuff I did over the weekend) can run $10 for only a few minutes of taste bud Utopia. Couple that with the expensive dehydrated fruit that we get on occasion and a hefty bite can be taken out of your bank account. What we did was purchase this:

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

In only a few minutes of work and several hours of wait time, I ended up with some INCREDIBLE beef jerky. Here is how I did it:

  • Purchased a steak block from Cash and Carry, a local restaurant supplier that is open to the public. I got round steak for around $3 a pound.
  • I cut the meat into thin slices. Mine ended up between 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch depending on how steady my hand was.
  • The meat was marinated in Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, liquid smoke, black and red pepper, garlic, and Tabasco sauce for 24 hours.
  • We set the device’s temperature setting to “Jerky” and the timer to 8 hours. about 6 hours into the process, we flipped the jerky over.

That was it. It came out delicious and we now have a great way to keep jerky in the house for a mere fraction of the price.

We also did some apples and mango. To help with the prep work and hassle, I picked up these from Amazon:

Apple Core and Peeler

Apple Core and Peeler

Mango PItter

Mango Pitter

These things made quick work of the fruit and allowed me to get it prepared and into the dehydrator in a matter of only 5-10 minutes. It was SO quick and simple that even my daughter was interested in at least watching, but not helping. This is definitely a step up from being completely ignored while doing things in the kitchen, so it must be really simple.

Once I got the fruit prepped and onto the trays, I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the apples. The mango was skinned, but left alone to dry. The drying process took about 10 hours for a good, complete dry. The product was definitely worth the wait, however. Over the course of 2 days the late teen/early 20 year olds in my home ate a full 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag full of dried fruit. It was amazing and so very simple.

When I get home tonight, I will be prepping some more jerky and drying out some more fruit. As time goes on and I experiment with even more recipes, I will post them. The best combo for fruit I have found thus far involves a medium to heavy sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar mix. I will try more things, however and report back. Later on, I also plan on making some of my own backpacking soups from veggies and meat. We will have to see how it goes, but I have some faith in the process after having done the fruit and beef jerky this last weekend.

If you have any interest in getting into the whole dehydrating thing, I highly suggest you pick yourself up one of the Excalibur systems from the very beginning. The ease and simple design, the timer, and the even drying of the food really make it worth the money. This is definitely a recommended product. Also, let me know if you come up with some good recipes along the way. We get good, inexpensive produce so I can afford to play a bit.

Happy dehydrating!!!!

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